Russia pulls back hundreds of troops


Associated Press

Posted on March 31, 2014 at 5:02 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 31 at 5:33 PM

SIMFEROPOL, Crimea (AP) — Russia is sending some confusing signals along its border with Ukraine.

It's pulled back a battalion of several hundred troops from that region, while at the same time sending its prime minister to Crimea to promise spending on power supplies, water lines and education.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says there are still "tens of thousands" of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border. He calls that a "tremendous buildup."

But White House spokesman Jay Carney says if there have been "drawdowns of Russian military forces from the border," it would "be a good thing."

Large numbers of Russian troops near the border had stoked fears of a possible invasion by Russia of eastern Ukraine, which is home to many ethnic Russians.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who led a delegation of Cabinet ministers on a surprise visit to Crimea today, pledged that Russia will quickly boost salaries and pensions there and pour in resources to improve education, health care and local infrastructure.

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200-a-13-(Jay Carney, White House press secretary, at news conference)-"need to de-escalate"-White House press secretary Jay Carney says even if the reported pull-back is true, it's just a first step. (31 Mar 2014)

<<CUT *200 (03/31/14)££ 00:13 "need to de-escalate"

157-c-19-(Vladimir Isachenkov (ee-sah-CHEHN'-kawf), AP correspondent)-"meet these expectations"-AP correspondent Vladimir Isachenkov reports Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's message to Crimeans was that annexation will improve their lives. ((Dmitry Medvedev is pronounced dih-MEE'-tree med-VYEH'-dyev)) (31 Mar 2014)

<<CUT *157 (03/31/14)££ 00:19 "meet these expectations"

APPHOTO XPAG105: Russian officers look as Russian tanks T-72B, close center, arrive and Ukrainian tanks, back, are transported to the Ukraine at the Ostryakovo railway station not far from Simferopol, Crimea, Monday, March 31, 2014. Russian tanks T-72B will be stationed on former Ukrainian military bases. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin) (31 Mar 2014)

<<APPHOTO XPAG105 (03/31/14)££